As deadline passes, two area First Nations still gathering information
Parry Sound North Star
By Sarah Bissonette
PARRY SOUND – Canada’s First Nation communities’ finances are now all supposed to be available online, according to federal law.
Under the new First Nations Financial Transparency Act, Canada’s First Nation communities must post online financial information, including chief and council remuneration.
In the Parry Sound area Wasauksing, Shawanaga and Moose Deer have posted their financial data on the Ministry of Aboriginal Affair’s website. Magnetawan and Wahta First Nations haven’t yet posted the information. The deadline to post financial information was July 29, with the risk of government funding being withheld for those who didn’t publicize the band council pay rates.
Union of Ontario Indians Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee said that for some communities, the deadline was missed because auditors required to manage the data are in high demand.
This is the first year the communities have had to post financial information to such depth and post the remuneration of elected officials. Between 2001 and 2013, the communities posted total funding from Aboriginal Affairs and Health Canada and the total spending of that funding.
Madahbee said the new act doesn’t really change anything, but has created more government jobs.
“I guess the first reaction to it is this is a knee jerk reaction from the federal government I guess in response to the Canadian Taxpayer’s Association (which lobbied for it),” he said. “I was in municipal politics, and provincial and federal politics, there are always problems. This transparency act is coming from a government that is billions of dollars in debt and has no accountability, as you can see with the many scandals that have gone on with this government. So you have a few percentage of First Nations in financial difficulty in some respects because of inadequate funding in the first place, or you have other communities that have perhaps taken on some economic development project and there has been some remuneration of the leadership from other sources that is now being questioned.”
Canada’s First Nations already report quarterly to the federal government on how funding is spent, with the possibility of funding being withheld if not that report is not done in time, said Magnetawan Chief William Diabo.
Auditors are preparing the Magnetawan First Nation’s report now after hitting a snag earlier in the process, and it should be done soon. While the community is preparing the required paperwork, Diabo opposes it.
“Why should the government of Canada pass legislation on a First Nation, who’s supposed to be a sovereign nation, telling us how we should report our funding?” he asked. “They don’t provide the funding for any businesses we run on reserve but yet they insist we consolidate that and include it in our reporting to them.”
The community has nothing to hide, he said, and it’s always made its financial information available.
“Realistically, we should be made accountable to our citizens on how we spend the money that’s provided to us,” said Diabo.
The posting of chief and council remuneration and expenses shows varied amounts for elected officials. In Wasauksing Chief Warren Tabobondung was paid $54,800 with $24,658 in expenses, and councillors earning $8,664 and claiming between $3,192 and $10,833 in expenses. Moose Dear Point First Nation Chief Barron King’s remuneration was $86,931 with $9,722 in expense claims, while the highest remuneration for a councillor in the position for a year was $32,175 with $5,061 in expense claims. Shawanaga Chief Wayne Pamajewon had a salary of $43,264 plus $20,622 in expenses and other remuneration, with a councillor on the job for 10.5 months getting $16,354 as an honorarium with $26,114 in expenses and other remuneration, and another sitting as councillor for 1.5 months receiving $4,500 in an honorarium and $751 in other expenses.
Madahbee said his community has questioned his expenses before, but he pointed out that the cost of travelling to Ottawa or Toronto for band-related meetings, and food and accommodation, accounts for the bulk of the claims.